Following a balanced diet and eating at the right time and proportions is key to a healthy and happy life. It lessens the likelihood of contracting diseases. However, too much or too little of a particular dietary component can significantly impact your health. Excess nutrient consumption can create an imbalance and lead to health issues. One such dietary component is sodium. Although most people confuse it with a low-salt diet, it is slightly different. Salt is only one of the sources of sodium.
Sodium intake is a major global problem, especially in developed countries. With hectic schedules and all the creativity and energy venting out at work, people fail to invest enough time in cooking. Instead, they seek ready-to-eat or quick meal options. Another common practice is to go out and grab something. It is one of the reasons why ready-to-eat meals and processed and fast foods are gaining popularity. However, little do people know about their harmful effects.
Most people believe that the only harmful content in these foods is fat. But, these foods are high in sodium. Although these foods give you the convenience of preparing your meals in no time, many are unaware that they shoot up sodium and other chemical levels in your body in many unexpected ways.
Low Sodium Diet: Who is it Suitable For?
Doctors only recommend a low-sodium diet to those with heart conditions, including heart failure. Kidney function declines when your heart is compromised, leading to sodium and water retention. But, it is advisable to follow a low-sodium diet only on a doctor’s recommendation because sodium is a vital mineral for your body.
A low-sodium diet involves keeping your sodium intake to a minimum. It only allows you to get this mineral through natural foods. In some individuals, a low-sodium diet reduces the risk of heart failure and prevents subsequent cardiovascular problems. However, a low-sodium diet also has various disadvantages, including the risk of hyponatremia, poor cholesterol levels, and heart failure. In addition, sodium is crucial for the body’s optimal fluid balance and proper kidney function. Hence, it is vital to know whether you need a low-sodium diet or not.
Several studies show that a low sodium diet risks one’s health. But it can be safe if you are looking towards a low-salt diet. Table salt is a significant source of sodium. Every day, an average person consumes five or more teaspoons of salt. It is roughly 20 times more than what the body requires because your body only needs ¼ teaspoon of salt each day.
Sodium, in general, is not detrimental to health. However, it gets a bad reputation because of its excessive presence in fast foods, processed foods, or other junk foods. The best way to prevent excess sodium consumption is to avoid eating fast foods and limit processed foods as much as possible.
Canned, processed, or ready-made foods contain excess salt. Ensure you don’t add extra salt to your meals and restrict eating hams, canned products, chips, or other salted snacks. Fruits and veggies already have some amount of sodium present in them. The only salt you get is natural sodium when you stick to natural foods, which is crucial for your body to function correctly.
Low Sodium Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid
Bread, Grains, and Cereals
- Bread, bagels, and rolls without salted tops.
- Muffins and most ready-to-eat cereals.
- Rice and pasta, but do not add salt when cooking.
- Low in sodium corn and flour tacos, tortillas, noodles, etc.
- Low-sodium crackers, biscuits, cookies, and breadsticks
- Unsalted popcorn.
Vegetables and Fruits
- Fresh vegetables.
- Fresh fruits.
- Dried fruits.
- Dry peas and beans (not canned).
- Milk, yoghurt, and ice creams.
- Low-sodium cheeses, such as cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella.
- Home-made soups without added salt.
- Fresh meat.
- Eggs and egg substitutes.
- Drained or oil-packed canned fish or poultry.
- You can eat canned fish if it is low in sodium. Check the label before buying it.
Fats, Desserts, and Sweets
- Vinegar, unsalted butter, homemade peanut butter, or margarine.
- Salad dressings, low-sodium sauces, and vegetable oils.
- All desserts and treats are sodium-free.
Foods to Avoid
Bread, Grains, and Cereals
- Pieces of bread made or topped with salts.
- Quick bread, shortbreads, self-rising flour, biscuits, pancake, and waffle mixes.
- Pizzas, croutons, and salted crackers or breadsticks.
- Pre-packaged, processed mixes for potatoes, rice, pasta, and stuffing.
Vegetables and Fruits
- Canned vegetables.
- Olives, pickles, sauerkraut, and other pickled vegetables.
- Cured meat of any kind.
- Packaged mixes, ready-to-eat mixes, such as scalloped or au gratin potatoes, frozen hashbrowns, and Tater Tots.
- Commercially prepared pasta and tomato sauces.
- Packaged Buttermilk that contains a high amount of added salt.
- Regular and processed cheese, cheese spreads, and sauces.
- Cottage cheese.
- Regular canned and dehydrated soup, broth, and bouillon.
- Cup of noodles and seasoned ramen mixes.
Meats, Fish, Legumes, Eggs, and Nuts
- Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat.
- Fish, including sardines, caviar, and anchovies.
- Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza.
- Canned entrees, such as ravioli, spam, and chilli.
- Salted nuts.
- Beans canned with salt added.
Fats, Desserts, and Sweets
- Soy sauce, seasoning salt, other sauces, and marinades.
- Bottled salad dressings, regular salad dressing with bacon bits.
- Salted butter or margarine.
- Instant pudding and cake.
- Large portions of ketchup, mustard.
The HealthifyMe Note
If your healthcare professional recommends following a low-sodium diet, the best way is to stop eating junk or ready-to-eat meals. Instead, eat more natural foods and adopt a well-balanced diet plan. Since your body needs the right amount of sodium to function correctly, restricting or cutting sodium entirely from the diet is not advisable.
Low-Sodium Diet: Reference Meal Plan Options
- Oats porridge topped with fresh fruits and 1-2 roughly chopped walnuts or 3-4 almonds.
- Veg poha with one bowl of homemade curd.
- Raspberry smoothie bowls with pears and pistachio.
- Avocado toast, zucchini sushi, and strawberry chia pudding.
- Chicken and cucumber lettuce wraps and plain yoghurt.
- Curried chicken and mango salad.
- Fruit salad
- Whole corns
- Plain popcorn
- Tofu salad and lentil soup
- Chicken salad sandwich and yoghurt with fresh blueberries
- Baked chicken with grilled asparagus
The Advantages of a Low-Sodium Diet
Some advantages of following a low sodium diet are as follows:
Reduces Cardiovascular Risks Associated with Hypertension
According to studies, sodium causes a rise in blood volume by increasing the amount of water in the bloodstream. As a result, the circulatory system is under additional strain due to the increased blood volume, which raises blood pressure.
Since high salt or sodium intake elevates blood pressure, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises adults to limit their sodium intake in order to prevent cardiovascular issues, including stroke, heart failure, and coronary heart disease. However, you do not need to cut down on all sodium sources. Instead, reducing salt intake can keep your blood pressure range normal.
Prevents Liver Illness
A fluid buildup in the abdomen, known as ascites and hypertension, are possible symptoms of certain liver disorders. To avoid or treat ascites, doctors may advise persons with cirrhosis and certain other liver illnesses to eating a diet low in sodium.
Prevents Kidney Illness
The kidney aids in regulating the body’s salt levels. Therefore, the body may become too hydrated and sodium-filled if the kidneys are not functioning correctly. Besides causing ankle and under-eye oedema, this fluid buildup can cause high blood pressure.
Enhances the Quality of Your Diet
Many unhealthy foods include a lot of salt. Fast food, packaged goods, and frozen meals are rich in calories and harmful salt-laden fats. These foods have been related to health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease when consumed frequently.
The low-sodium diet restricts the consumption of high-salt foods, which may enhance the nutritional quality of your diet.
The Disadvantages of a Low-Sodium Diet
Risk of Heart Failure
Inadequate sodium content in your body can hamper the blood flow into your body. Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot adequately pump blood throughout the body to meet its needs for blood and oxygen. Although your heart doesn’t stop beating entirely, this is still an extremely significant health problem. In addition, those with heart failure have a higher mortality risk from low sodium diets.
May Increase Bad Cholesterol
Low-sodium diets may increase triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Elevated levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides can further increase the risk of other heart diseases.
High Risk of Hyponatremia
Low sodium levels in the blood characterise a disorder known as hyponatremia. Its signs are comparable to those of dehydration. The brain may swell in severe cases, which can cause headaches, seizures, comas, and even death.
Certain groups, such as older adults, are more susceptible to hyponatremia. It is because people in their later years are more likely to be ill or use medications that lower sodium levels in the blood. Athletes are also at significant risk of getting exercise-associated hyponatremia, especially those participating in long-distance endurance competitions.
Low blood sodium levels can lead to impaired kidney function, while large dosages cause kidney failure. Sodium is the most important electrolyte for maintaining blood volume and the kidneys’ ability to receive oxygen. Therefore, a balanced sodium intake is essential for healthy kidney function.
The HealthifyMe Note
A low-sodium diet has several advantages. However, these advantages are only for people who require a low-sodium diet. For others, a low-sodium diet can be detrimental. Hence, you must not follow a low-sodium diet without your doctor’s advice. Instead, follow a healthy and well-balanced diet for improved health.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend toward various dietary choices such as the DASH diet, low-sodium diet, etc. In the modern world, the need to uphold the body’s nutritional needs has encouraged individuals to accept such dietary choices. These diets may combat particular ailments. However, you must know that nothing can replace the goodness of a healthy and well-balanced meal. FAD diets are a loosely defined category that includes popular diets that healthcare organisations do not acknowledge or promote. Health management is not just an alternative to fad diets. A well-balanced daily intake with determination and dedication is the ultimate way to a healthy lifestyle.